— In the Philippines, much of the world's attention has focused on the devastated city Tacloban where authorities have struggled to deliver aid to tens of thousands of homeless residents.
But scores of smaller towns across the country's central islands are only just being reached by aid workers a week after Typhoon Haiyan. Among them: Daanbantayan on Cebu island's northern tip, which was in the storm’s direct path.
At one aid station, fledgling attempts are made to transform frustration and confusion into organization as food, water and other necessities trickle into coastal villages directly hit by winds of more than 300 kilometers per hour.
Francisco Oswa, his wife and their five children rode out the storm at his mother’s sturdier house next door.
“The roofs all flew off. Our neighbors’ homes collapsed. Then our house was destroyed," she explained through an interpreter. "We’re poor people, we need help here. We are out of food."
While Cebu’s physical devastation is enormous, its remarkably low human death toll is being attributed to most people heeding the mandatory evacuation notices. But figuring out where to shelter more than 20,000 households is now the latest challenge for Dann Andrio, operations officer on assignment from the national interior department.
“What we really need is temporary shelters," he said. "A big help would be the used tarpaulins or big mats or any kind of plastic material that can sustain at least a day or so, especially because Philippines is a tropical country. We’re expecting not just summer, but also rainy season, rainy days.”
Under a blazing sun, children cluster by the roadside pleading hunger, and a fortunate few receive handouts. But some officials dismiss their pleas as the exploits of perennially impoverished parents seeking to capitalize on the sympathies of foreign aid workers.
But for most families in Cebu, it has long been a hand-to-mouth existence, even when not contending with the destruction wrought by one of the world’s most powerful storms.
A girl returns home after getting water, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A volunteer in a passing car hands out water to typhoon victims, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Children wait on roadsides to get handouts from passing motorists, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A damaged church in Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Children play on limbs of a fallen tree in front of their destroyed home, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A home that was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A group of people, mostly seniors, waits for relief supplies in the blazing sun, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A family in front of their damaged home, Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Limbs from downed trees are piled up in a severely damaged village in Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2013. (Photo: Steve Herman / VOA)
A view of the damage in Cebu, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)